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Is it advisable to give the titles of the works in the literature review chapter of my thesis dissertation as I'm citing them?

In the publications and theses I have seen in my field (Computer Science), when discussing other work, there is usually just a numeric reference, with details in the bibliography, so you might read something like:

A new algorithm was introduced in [5] which addresses the issue of ...

But specifically in the literature review chapter, would it be better to give the full title of the work if you are going to review the work in a bit more detail, e.g. dedicating a paragraph or even subsection to a particular work?

With this proposal you might write:

Fantastic Functions and Where to Find Them [5] proposes a new algorithm to deal with...

I have read the interesting discussion in Do journal titles need to be included in a brief literature review in the introduction?, but there it was talking about journal titles and a section which was not a dedicated literature review. I am proposing including the titles of referenced works just in the literature review chapter (along with the numerical reference), but sticking to the usual terse convention in the rest of the thesis dissertation.

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I wouldn't change the citation style between different parts of the thesis, but feel free to adapt your prose around citations, especially in an introduction or literature review chapter. When done well it can liven up the text or communicate additional context. For example, it is common to highlight particularly important (for the field, or for your topic) works by mentioning the persons involved and the year in the text, e.g. "In 1928 Dirac proposed the equation that now bears his name [6]". If the title is better known (certain literary works such as Flatland come to mind), you can mention that as well or even instead of other information, just as you propose.

That said, I would suggest it is typically best to do this somewhat sparingly, and that likely not all references cited in a literature review deserve this treatment. Even if you think they are all deserving, overdoing it will make the text worse. It is hard to imagine a well-flowing paragraph mentioning the titles of "Statistical Mechanics of the XY Model IV: Time-Dependent Spin-Correlation Functions" as well as the three preceding papers. But if you've already stepped away from the clutches of the terse convention, perhaps you can dare to vary the form even more and use your own words to describe the reference? Perhaps this paper IV could be referred to as "In a follow-up work [6], ..." or maybe all four papers could be called "a series of works"? Don't be afraid to experiment, but also don't keep what does not fit.

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  • What a beautifully written and enlightening answer, thank you. I'm now hesitating whether to "[step] away from the clutches of the terse convention" or indeed "dare to vary the form even more" :-)
    – Felix U
    Jul 6 at 15:01
  • Good answer, though the linked page would be better if it quoted Samuel Johnson instead of Stephen King: "Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out." (though even Johnson in the 18th century was quoting someone else). gutenberg.org/cache/epub/9072/pg9072.html
    – Oliver882
    Jul 6 at 17:36
  • @Oliver882 I'm partial to Arthur Quiller-Couch's variation mentioned in the page I linked, but there are indeed many quotes with the same overall message.
    – Anyon
    Jul 6 at 18:34

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